First container of test glass filled at Hanford’s Vit Plant

December 6, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Crewmembers stand in front of the first stainless-steel container filled with molten test glass at Hanford’s Vit Plant. (Photo: Bechtel National)

Bechtel and the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced on December 4 that the first set of test glass was successfully poured into a stainless-steel storage container designed to hold vitrified waste at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant.

According to Bechtel, which is designing, building, and commissioning the plant, the pouring of the first container marks a major milestone in the DOE’s mission to treat radioactive and chemical liquid waste at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state.

The commissioning: The pour was completed as workers commissioned the first of two large melters in the Vit Plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility. Once operational, the melters will be used to immobilize Hanford’s tank waste, turning it into a stable glass form through vitrification. About 56 million gallons of waste, the byproduct of defense-related plutonium production, is stored in underground tanks at Hanford.

The test glass poured is “clean,” which means it only includes the molten frit—glass beads—with no chemical simulants or radioactive waste. During the cold and hot commissioning processes, tests will be conducted using nonradioactive simulants to ensure the LAW Facility is operating as expected.

Lessons learned: In August, Vit Plant workers began adding frit to the first melter, following a monthlong process of heating the melter to its operational temperature of 2,100°F. By early September, the first molten pool of glass was created in a commissioning process that led to filling the first container with test glass at the plant.

According to DOE-EM, lessons learned from the heating of the first melter have been integrated into plans to heat up the second melter in the near future.

Quote: “With the first container of test glass produced, we are entering the next era of risk reduction in the Hanford environmental cleanup mission as we work towards the start of tank waste immobilization,” Hanford Site manager Brian Vance said. “This achievement represents a significant step towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.”

Fast facts:

  • Each stainless-steel container measures 7.5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
  • When filled, each stainless-steel container will weigh approximately 6.8 metric tons.
  • Once fully operational, the LAW Facility will process 5,300 gallons of tank waste and fill 3.5 containers each day.
  • The containers of vitrified low-activity waste will be trucked from the Vit Plant to the Hanford Site’s Integrated Disposal Facility.

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